SAN DIEGO - A Coast Guard vessel’s dangerous speed caused a collision that killed an 8-year-old boy and seriously injured four other people aboard a pleasure boat during a Christmas parade, the National Transportation Safety Board found yesterday.
The board also faulted the Coast Guard for lack of supervision in the December 2009 crash that occurred when a crew was rushing to a grounded sailboat that was in no danger of taking on water in San Diego Bay. The 33-foot Coast Guard vessel was going as fast as 42 knots - or 48 miles per hour - when it struck the pleasure boat shortly after a fireworks show in an area packed with kayaks, canoes, and other watercraft, investigators found.
The Coast Guard’s electronic equipment failed to capture the precise speed, but investigators said it was going at least 19 knots, still too fast for conditions. A 12-second video taken within 100 yards of the crash clocked the vessel at 42 knots, and eyewitnesses said it maintained that speed. The boat’s driver and a crew member estimated lower speeds.
NTSB board members were harshly critical of the Coast Guard command and the failure of other crew members to notice the hazard.
“I find it ironic that the Coast Guard is in the position of evaluating all of the other folks in the boating community to determine if they are complying with the rules, but then when they are in a position, they are essentially saying, Do as I say, not as I do,’’ said chairwoman Deborah Hersman.
Dan Dewell, a Coast Guard spokesman, said his agency looked forward to reviewing the NTSB findings. The Coast Guard is also doing its own investigation, he said.
Mike Neil, a lawyer representing the family of 8-year-old Anthony DeWeese in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the federal government, said the NTSB findings were “right on the money’’ for faulting the Coast Guard chain of command.
“These young Coast Guard men and women were put out on these boats without adequate supervision and training and they are also, in a sense, victims,’’ Neil said. “The members of that crew are going to have to carry the memory of the death of this boy for the rest of their lives.’’